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Guide To Squeeze Play

Dominic Field

Oct 27, 2022

A Guide to Squeeze Play in Poker

If you are looking for strategies to ace in cash games, we have a pre-flop move that may help you win the pot. 

Although squeeze play is not as common as it once was, it remains an interesting part of the game. In this article, we’ll explain exactly what the term means and reveal just how a squeeze play works and how to successfully execute the move.

What Is Poker Squeeze Play?

Let’s kick things off with a definition to avoid any doubt. A squeeze is when you apply pressure (hence the name) with a big raise in a very specific situation, forcing one or more callers to 'squeeze' money out of their pot. When an early position raise is called by one or more players, you come over the top with a hefty 3-bet. This is a classic squeeze play.

Since the raise in a squeeze play must be big, it only applies in Pot Limit or No Limit games. You cannot squeeze in a Fixed Limit poker game.

In short, the game looks like this:

  • Player A: Raises

  • Player B: Calls

  • You can re-raise all-in and see how the rest act (more about it later).

Why Squeeze Play?

Applying a squeeze allows you to make the most of generous pot odds or take down a big pot a lot of the time. Usually, this happens without you even revealing your cards. The squeeze play creates four possible scenarios, three of which are brilliant spots for you to be in:

  • Everyone folds. This is good news for obvious reasons, plus nobody will know what cards you held.

  • One caller. You have a big post-flop advantage, having shown your real strength pre-flop in your original raise.

  • Multiple callers. You still have an edge given the strength of your range, though not quite as big. Even so, it is an advantage, and we are now playing for a huge pot.

  • Someone 4-bets.Okay, a player raising 4-bets can be a problem, and we now have a tough decision in a massive pot. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Building and Winning Pots with Squeeze Play

Poker Squeeze Play Examples

Dan Harrington popularised the term “squeeze play” in his “Harrington on Hold’em” series. In one of the books, he discussed a hand from the 2004 WSOP Main Event final table. Let’s quickly run through it here, as it nicely illustrates the concept.

  • Josh Arieh raised from an early position with K-9,, making it 220,000 to go.

  • Chip leader Greg Raymer called with A-2.

  • Dan Harrington, second shortest in chips with 2.3 million, raised to 1,200,000 from the button with 6-2.

Harrington recognised that Arieh was an aggressive, if somewhat loose, player. He also noticed that Raymer was playing too many pots with his chip lead. By applying pressure in this situation, he was squeezing both players.

Arieh knew that he was facing a big raise from a tight player in Harrington. Not only that, he had Raymer, who had yet to make a move and who had a ton of chips, behind him too. He was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and he had no choice but to fold.

Raymer was also feeling the pressure. His raggedy Ace was probably no good in the face of such a sizable bet, knowing Harrington’s image and range advantage. Despite the chip lead, it was not worth it to go to war against what was probably a bigger Ace at best.

As an added bonus, David Williams sat in the Big Blind position with A-Q. In the face of all this action, he had no choice but to assume his strong hand was bad. So he folded the best hand before it even got back to Arieh. Even he was pressured by this perfect squeeze play.

When To Employ Poker Squeeze

So now that we understand how and why the poker squeeze works, when is the right time to employ it? Well, you first need to factor in the following considerations to guarantee a successful squeeze play:

  • The initial raiser must be known as an aggressive, loosey-goosey type of player.  A loose player is usually the one having fun at the table game and willing to bet for fun.

  • You must be sure that the resulting call is also a loose one, not some kind of trap from a tight or tricky player. Another loose caller may not be willing to risk a big bet and instead opt for a cheap flop.

  • There are very few players left to act behind you; the fewer, the better. Ideally, they should be tight players.

  • You must be prepared to bet big, at least 5 or 6 times the size of the initial raise. This is done to scare other players and force them to fold, thinking they have a mediocre hand. You need to ask yourself: Does your stack allow for this?

  • Your own table image must be tight, as a squeeze is not likely to work if you are perceived as a maniac. This means acting discreetly, low-key, and not attracting too much attention during a cash game.

In terms of your hand selection, your choice of squeezing hand really depends on your opponents and their perceived ranges. The looser a player is, the wider their hand range, so it follows that you can have a wider squeezing range yourself.

Bet Sizing

Man pushing a large stack of chips in pokerAs with most situations in poker, position will help to shape your decision. If you are going to play out of position post-flop, you’ll need to make a bigger squeeze. Ideally, you want to force the raise through pre-flop. If you do get a call, you want your opponent to be squirming as much as possible.

If you’re in position after the flop, you can afford to raise slightly less. As a general rule, something around the size of the pot minus 1 BB would work perfectly. When out of position, a figure of approximately pot plus 1 BB is ideal.

How To React To A 4-Bet

This is a tricky spot, and it’s difficult to employ a “one size fits all” approach. It very much depends on the opponent who has raised and what you know about them. Regardless, some things are obvious.

First of all, you should re-raise all in with your premium holdings, such as AA, KK, QQ, and AK. You can call with any other pocket pair pretty much all of the time, unless you have some kind of read. You may also call with some bigger suited hands that you would use for semi-bluffing purposes, such as A-Q or K-Q suited.

Final Word

The ideal scenario for squeeze plays is when a loose player raises before the flop, but a tight player calls. This opens you an opportunity to make a whooping 3-bet and scare the rest of the players to fold. Such a scenario would put any loose raiser with a weak hand into an uncomfortable position where the advantage is not on their side.

When playing real cash games, you should always be on the lookout for aggressive players who are opening too often or those passively going with the flow and not going above cheap flops.

Although cash games are unpredictable, you can always practise for free and master your skills until you're ready to test out your advanced strategies.

And for that, Natural8 has a special free-of-charge account with freerolls and total freedom to practise as much as you need before joining the real game.